Disordered Eating in Jewish Adolescent Girls

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Description: To examine the presence and nature of disordered eating attitudes and behaviours among Jewish Canadian adolescents, as compared with non-Jewish Canadian adolescents in an urban community. A secondary goal was to examine whether rates of eating-disordered behaviour differed among the adolescents based on the degree of Jewish religious observance. High school students (n = 868) from the Toronto area completed a demographic and religious practice questionnaire together with the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), a self-report test that discriminated adolescents with syndromal eating disorders from normal adolescents. Jewish females aged 13 to 20 years, but not males, reported significantly more disordered eating behaviours and attitudes, compared with their non-Jewish female counterparts. Twenty-five percent of Jewish females, as compared with 18% of non-Jewish females, scored above the clinical cut-off for the EAT. No differences in vulnerability to disordered eating were found within the group of Jewish females or males related to their degree of religious observance. Adolescent Jewish females, but not males, appear to be at greater risk for abnormal attitudes and behaviours related to eating, compared with their non-Jewish female peers. While the reasons for this finding are unclear, this study is a step toward improving understanding of the relations between sex, culture, religion, and the development of eating disorders. Culturally sensitive and sex-specific prevention strategies and treatment interventions are indicated.
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